Inside EMI web feature & photos by Erin Means / EMI Uganda / Uganda

Cherish Uganda

Hope for kids living with HIV: Designed & built by EMI, Cherish’s Health Center is being used in the fight against HIV/AIDS in rural Uganda.

There is a small fishing village in the central Wakiso District of Uganda. It is home to a ministry that dreams of changing the stories of children living with HIV by offering them H.O.P.E. Cherish Uganda seeks to provide these children with Healthcare, Love, Prosperity and Education.

Though cases of HIV/AIDS in Uganda have decreased in recent years, the disease still runs rampant among fishermen, commercial sex workers and other trades. Fishermen in particular are three to four times more likely to have HIV/AIDS than the average population. The impact on children is especially hard. About one million children in Uganda have been orphaned as a result of the disease. Beyond that, an estimated 190,000 children live with HIV/AIDS. Treated as outcasts, they are unable to connect with the rest of their community.

Waiting for checkup Outpatient Health Center

Waiting for a checkup on clinic day.

The Cherish Outpatient Health Center was designed by EMI in early 2013. The construction was completed in July 2014.

Cherish seeks to change this social stigma. EMI has been working with Cherish to design a master plan and the first phase of the Hope Hospital. The goal is to provide accessible healthcare and disease prevention education in the surrounding community. Last year EMI managed the construction of the Outpatient Health Center. This building is now completed, giving Cherish staff the space they need to properly care for patients. Quite often new buildings, especially modern ones, can be intimidating to those in rural settings. This can cause people to be hesitant about getting the medical attention they desperately need. Instead, Cherish believes their building’s scale and appearance will actually encourage the community to seek medical care. Design factors like these can help accomplish the mission of health education, especially when the task is dealing with HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Clara Komuhangi is the Health Center physician and director. Though she did not set out to work specifically with HIV/AIDS, Dr. Clara always wanted to work with children. Knowing her passion for kids, a friend introduced Cherish and Dr. Clara is now a vital member of their team. She says, “We hope to minister the love of Jesus through health care. I hope this community will have access to some of the best healthcare in our nation. Health care that is affordable, accessible and acceptable. We want to participate in the reduction of HIV/AIDS transmission.”

Dr Clara Natural light in clinic

Dr. Clara Komuhangi is the Health Center physician and director.

The natural lighting and ventilation of the Health Center’s interior space is familiar to rural Uganda.

Currently, the Health Center serves the medical needs of the 50 children living in Cherish’s Akaloosa village. The goal is to show these children the love of Jesus in a very real and practical way. They often arrive in pretty bad shape. They need medical attention, clothes, and food – as well as schooling and a loving home. Dr. Clara says, “The fact that they are living with HIV attracts more stigma than one could deal with in a lifetime. However, they are as full of life as any child I have ever seen.” Cherish immediately places them in a family style home with a mom, auntie and “brothers or sisters”. The medical needs of each child are assessed and they are started on ART (anti-retroviral therapy) to slow down the progression of HIV.

With the expected arrival of supplies and equipment, Cherish hopes to serve the wider community in the near future. In anticipation of this, the Health Center opened its doors in May for a free clinic. They diagnosed and offered treatment for many of the local health issues such as malaria, malnutrition, tuberculosis, as well as HIV/AIDS testing. By 10 am the waiting areas were filled with people. It was a glimpse of what the Lord has planned for the future. The Cherish staff are excited about the next phases of construction which will enable them to offer more specialized care.

Serving Finishing an exam

The clinic offered Cherish staff and the medical mission team an opportunity to serve the greater community.

Dr. Clara finishes an exam.

Cherish CEO Brent Phillips says, “When the history of Cherish is written and we talk about the key partnerships that enabled us to fulfill the vision laid out before us by God, EMI will be on that list, if not at the top.” As EMI continues this partnership, offering appropriate and sustainable design, the story of this fishing village is being changed. God is writing a new story through the efforts of Dr. Clara and the Cherish team.

Inside Uganda, Project #9138, June 2015